I’ve been practicing yoga for 11 years now, six of which I’ve spent as a teacher. In my experience, people who are new to yoga have trouble stabilizing their muscles to find balance even when both of their feet are on the ground. Cueing a student to engage their core and them actually feeling that engagement can be worlds apart. But with practices that use props, like dumbbells, blocks, and Pilates balls, the added resistance can make finding that muscle engagement easier.
The Yoga Strong class at Equinox, which I was invited to take, uses a rectangular 10-pound sandbag (custom made for Equinox) with straps on either end and a seam down the middle that makes it foldable. Throughout the class, the sandbag is used to stabilize, strength train, and add pressure to parts of the body that carry tension, like how a weighted blanket helps you unwind. As we went through an Ashtanga-based sequence, I kept thinking that this class would be great for new practitioners to try. Yoga Strong isn’t fast-paced like a yoga sculpt or Vinyasa class; you get to spend more time in each posture, so you can adjust the sandbag as much as you need to to find what works for you.
What Happens During Equinox Yoga Strong Class
Before we started the class, our instructor, Kristina Erikson, reviewed the different ways that we’d hold the sandbag during class. Then we laid the sandbag over the tops of our feet and began in a delightfully grounding Mountain Pose. I felt evenly centered for the first time all day. After that moment of still bliss, it was time to awaken our stabilizing muscles.
We sat our hips back in Chair Pose while holding the sandbag like a tray in both hands moving it away and towards the chest. I had to fire up my abs, obliques, and back during this exercise so that I could stay still in my waist while my arms were moving. During Extended Side Angle (pictured below), we held the bag in one hand to do a shoulder press overhead that challenged the stability of my abs, wrists, and shoulders. The sandbag was used for several other postures throughout class, but those two moves brought the most heat and challenge, respectively.
Between the fiery exercises were moments where we got to slow down and let the weight rest over parts of our bodies. Placing the sandbag over my low back in Wide-Legged Forward Fold helped make sure that my hips were balanced and that I wasn’t leaning to one side, which would cause the sandbag to slip off. It was my favorite moment of the class. At the end, I was on my back in Savasana with the sandbag over my hips. I regularly place a sandbag over my hips in this pose as the pressure helps me feel calm and centered.
No matter if you’ve been practicing for a day or 20 years, practitioners of all levels can benefit from the stabilizing, strengthening, and grounding elements of this class. Yoga Strong is available at all Equinox locations, so you can check out class times on its website.
Image Source: Courtesy of Equinox